Writing for Children: not for those who want glory, fame, or big bucks

Last week’s Hamodia/Inyan Magazine had an article by one of my favorite columnists, Rabbi Fishel Schachter entitled “Guided by Tale Winds.” While today Rabbi Schachter is well-known in the Torah world for essays and presentations for adults about the weekly Torah portion, parenting, and other subjects, he first gained popularity as a rebbi and storyteller to students in Jewish day schools.

Rabbi Schachter explains in the article that one of the adults in his audience told him many years ago that he had to choose between teaching grown-ups or kids — and he indicated that the natural choice for a man of Rabbi Schachter’s talent and intelligence was to teach adults.

Turning to his own rebbi for guidance, Rabbi Schachter asked if teaching kids was really beneath him? Were all the silly voices and so on undermining his stature?

Continue reading

In the Courtyard of the Novelist: An interview with Ruchama King Feuerman

I’ve got a treat here today: an interview (conducted via email) with award-winning author, Ruchama King Feuerman. Her latest book, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, just came out in September as an ebook. Recently, she signed a contract to expand the release to paperback. I became acquainted with Ruchama through Tablet Magazine online, where both of us have published essays. She was gracious enough to send me a copy of her new book and even more gracious to answer a few questions the novel left me with.

R.K. – In your first book, Seven Blessings, the central figure is a very strong female character. In this new book, you primarily follow two male, unmarried characters. What was that like for you as a married woman?

new book from Ruchama King Feuerman

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, now out from NYRB LIT

R.K.F.I prefer writing from the male point of view. This way I don’t worry about slippage, about parts of  my personality leaking into my characters, it’s just cleaner — what’s me is me, and what’s them is them.  I feel much freer to invent and have fun when I write as a man.  I do tend to prefer singles maybe because they are inherently dramatic. Continue reading

Thank the folks who’ve rejected you–a radical suggestion for writers this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us here in the U.S., and this is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon gratitude, whether you celebrate the holiday or not. I’m a big fan of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and also of Rabbi Shalom Arush, and I’m going to combine their approaches for this writing exercise appropriate to the Thanksgiving season and year-round. This exercise is useful whether you’re Jewish or not–please don’t get turned off to it just because it was inspired by a couple of rabbis.

mother offering child medicine

Be grateful for the medicine–it’s good for you.

Rejection is just about the hardest thing to cope with when you decide you’re going to become a writer, but it’s something that you need to learn to accept graciously. When that rejection letter first comes, you are often overwhelmed by feelings of resentment, anger, and frustration. You might lash out, calling the editors idiots or saying that the publisher doesn’t know what good writing is. You might despair, consider yourself a failure, or even give up writing.

But here’s the truth–you were meant to be rejected, at least in this specific instance. Continue reading

10 Ways to Use Your Words to Spread Love and Peace

This time of year is known on the Jewish calendar as the Nine Days, which culminate in the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av. This fast day is the anniversary of many tragic events in Jewish history, the most important three being the evil report given by 10 out of 12 scouts sent into the land of Israel by Moshe; the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians; and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans.

Two out of three of these events are blamed by the rabbis on the use of words to harm others. By improving our speech, avoiding gossip and hurtful language, we can help bring the Moshiach and his reign of peace. If we build people with our words instead of destroying them with our words, we are adding bricks to the Third Temple.
In this digital age, we use words all the time. As a writer, I’m practically obsessed with them. But the more you use words, the more you must be careful with them. It is truly shocking how often we find people online misusing their words. People insult, use profanity, spread xenophobia and hatred with aplomb. People spread hurtful and offensive comments based on hearsay, rumor, or untruths and act like they’re doing a public service.
The amazing thing is that a level-headed comment that respectfully disagrees is more influential, and a kind word or compliment makes people want to hear more of what you have to say. The more you use your words for good, the more blessing G-d gives them. If more people used their words to spread love and peace in the world, the world would be that much of a happier place to be.
Here are some positive ways you can use your words:
1) Apologize in a more meaningful and detailed way than a simple “I’m sorry,” to someone you harmed.
2) Write an affectionate letter to a spouse, parent, child, teacher or friend.
3) Thank someone you haven’t seen in years for something they did to help you a long time ago.
4) Write a positive review of a book or product.
5) Write a recommendation for a person to get work.
6) Write a letter complementing a company on the fine qualities of their product, or…
7) on the excellent service you received from an employee.
8) If you feel you must disagree with someone, make the comment respectful. For example:
“With all due respect, I must disagree with the idea that…”
“I’m not sure that the evidence supports your comment…”
“You make an interesting point. Can you defend it with some evidence?”
“I’m impressed by your…, but think your statement that…requires more thought.”
“While I think that…is a wonderful…, I have to respectfully disagree with their notion that…”
NEVER insult a person, even if you must attack their ideas. (And, frankly, you usually don’t really need to do that, you’re just itching to.)
9) Leave a note in your spouse’s or kid’s lunchbox with a funny joke or mentioning something you look forward doing with them when they return home.
10) Write a (true or not) story or poem that reflects gratitude to G-d or to a person for the blessings they have brought into your life.